Jim Nabors, whose wide-eyed character Gomer Pyle was so popular on The Andy Griffith Show that he got his own spinoff and whose surprisingly sonorous baritone singing voice made him a successful recording artist, has died. He was 87.
“Golll-ly!” was just one of many corn-pone catchphrases that propelled the hit ’60s show’s naive and lovable Mayberry gas-station attendant to popularity (beating out others like “Garsh!” and “Sha-zam!”).
When CBS decided that Pyle would leave Mayberry for the military, he became Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., where his childlike innocence would constantly rattle his Marine sergeant. The spinoff lasted six seasons.
Nabors died at his home in Hawaii after a period of declining health, his husband Stan Cadwallader told The Associated Press. “Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader told the AP.
Born in Alabama, Nabors had been privately out to his friends and loved ones for years, but it wasn’t until the couple wed in 2013 in Washington State that he came out publicly. They lived together in Hawaii, where Nabors had moved in the1970s.
Though Gomer Pyle’s voice was cartoonishly high and homespun, it belied another of Nabors’ talents: as an operatic baritone. He recorded scores of albums and sold out concert halls, hotel resorts and Vegas showrooms through the years.
But the one music gig he’ll perhaps be best known for: The annual singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” just before the start of the Indianapolis 500.
Nabors first tackled the Hoosier anthem in 1972, and did it every year (except one, 2007, which he missed with an illness) until 2014, which he announced would be his last.